Pages Navigation Menu

sustainability starts at home

Fall is for Tree Planting (Why We Need More Trees)

Fall is for Tree Planting (Why We Need More Trees)

Autumn is an optimal time to plant trees. As mundane as it may seem compared to solar panels and hybrid cars, the reason why we should plant more trees is because it is one of the most powerful and affordable ways to make a personal difference for the environment. And it’s a fun and educational activity to do with kids, too.

Why We Should Plant More Trees

As we learned in third grade biology, trees are essential to life. They create the very air we breathe and filter air pollution. What you may not know is that trees also build soil and help soak up stormwater before it can create a flood, and they offer energy-saving shade that reduces global warming and creates habitat for thousands of different species. Trees also help to reduce ozone levels in urban areas.

Most importantly, trees sequester carbon, helping to remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air, which cools the earth. In fact, a mature, canopy tree absorbs enough carbon and releases enough oxygen to sustain two human beings!

The carbon storage capacity of forests is approximately three times as large as the pool of carbon in the atmosphere. If forests are changed, reduced, or eliminated, the captured carbon goes into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2).

Despite their importance to life as we know it, every year we cut down over 50,000 square miles of forest worldwide for paper, agriculture, building materials and fuel. That’s an area the size of the state of Alabama! Every year! 

The carbon release from deforestation accounts for 25 to 30 percent of the four to five billion tons of carbon accumulating every year in the atmosphere from human activities.

Much of this wouldn’t be necessary if we reduced, reused and recycled more, cultivated hemp for fiber, and used sustainable and recycled materials in all our buildings. But until this changes, we need to put the trees back any way we can, as fast as we can!

planting-trees-children1There are many local, national and international organizations that plant trees, and because planting trees costs relatively little, donating to these organizations can make a big difference.

You can also have trees planted specifically to offset your personal carbon emissions from airplane or car travel. These organizations can help you out:

Also check with your local environmental or parks department for tree planting organizations and events in your community.

While supporting tree planting organizations is a great way to be eco-friendly, you can also make a difference in your community by planting trees on your own property.

A properly-planted, mature shade tree on the south or west side of your house can save you up to 25% on your summer air conditioning bills and increase your property value by up to 20% with its beauty. That same tree will also help soak up stormwater in the neighborhood, and contribute habitat for local wildlife. If you plant a fruit or nut tree, you get food as an added bonus!

You really can’t go wrong by planting trees!

How to Properly Plant a Tree

September through November is the ideal time for planting trees, shrubs and perennials (in the Northern hemisphere) because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes and winter sets in. Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are also better equipped to deal with heat, pests and drought the following season. Another great reason to plant your trees and shrubs in the fall is so you can select them by the fall colors they produce.

Cooler, wetter weather is the perfect time for tree planting, and seasonal rains can often provide all the water the tree needs to establish. However, if the weather is dry you should make sure your shade trees get about 15-20 gallons of water a week, until they go dormant for winter. Fruit trees and ornamental trees and shrubs can receive a little less. It is very easy to make sure your tree gets the water it needs automatically using a TreeGator device.

Avoid planting broad leaved evergreens like rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwoods and hollies in the fall, because they are not likely to survive winter cold and wind so soon after planting. However, virtually all other temperate shade trees, ornamental/fruit trees, and perennials are perfect for planting in the fall, before the soil gets too cold too dig.

The Arbor Day Foundation has a great video series on how to properly plant a tree. Learn how to plant a tree »

Proper tree planting

click to enlarge

Here are a few key tips for proper tree planting that you may not know:

1. A healthy tree’s root system is just as wide as its canopy, so be sure to plant your tree in a location far enough from your house to accommodate both the mature breadth of the tree branches and the mature spread of the tree roots.

Especially consider where your water and sewer pipes are in your yard in relation to your tree’s future root spread. It would be awfully expensive and tragic to have to cut down a 30-foot tall, mature shade tree because its roots were breaking up your plumbing.

2. Make sure your tree is planted at the exact same depth as it was planted in the pot or burlap sack it came in. Planting a tree too deep is a leading cause of tree death because it smothers the roots and introduces moisture and fungus to the trunk.

Planting a tree too shallow will expose too much of the top of the root system to the elements. If you have to move the tree to place more soil beneath it or take some away to get the tree to sit at the right depth during planting, it is worth the work. A tree can last for generations if you plant it right.

3. Never pile mulch around the trunk of your tree! I know people do this all the time everywhere you go, but it is a very harmful practice for the tree and shortens its lifespan greatly. While you should always mulch your trees, piling up the mulch around the trunk like a volcano introduces wood-rotting bacteria and fungus from the mulch directly to the living, growing bark of the tree. The moisture build-up and fungus will often girdle or kill the tree before it can reach maturity.

The proper way to place mulch around a tree is in a “doughnut” shape that doesn’t allow the rotting mulch to come into contact with the living bark. (See image above.)

4. Don’t use stakes unless absolutely necessary. If the tree is grown and dug properly at the nursery, staking for support will be unnecessary. Trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting, but instead are allowed to adapt to local conditions. However, protective staking may be necessary where lawn mower damage, vandalism, or windy conditions are concerns.

This fall, consider planting a tree or two on your property, or help with a tree planting in your community. And this holiday season, consider a generous donation to a non-profit that plants trees or does reforestation work.

We all benefit greatly from living among more trees.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog, including Amazon.com links. These small earnings make it possible for me to continue writing this blog for you. That said, I only recommend products I genuinely love, and that I believe would be of value to my readers.
Thank you for your support!

MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.




10 Comments

  1. This Autumn (Southern Hemisphere) I planted a number of fruit trees. They will provide us with food and shade, which we need as we live in a very dry and hot area, and contribute to greening our environment.

    Your point 3 is very helpful, as I didn’t know mulch could damage a tree if it’s put on/near its trunk

  2. Go online and find out where you can plant a tree in your name for free. I went to myhollywoodgreenoffers.com and it took less than a minute. Save the planet people!

  3. I love trees. I have a beautiful Pin Oak out my kitchen window. I get so much pleasure watching it change with every season. Thanks for the great information and for sharing at The Gathering Spot.

  4. This made me think of something I learned recently: cyanobacteria, or “blue-green algae” produces the majority of the earth’s oxygen supply! They live in soil, on moist surface, and water, such as pond water. Who knew!?

    I also never knew that plants only undergo photosynthesis during daylight, but at night they breathe just like us, taking in oxygen and emitting carbon dioxide! Just two things that I thought were interesting and I wanted to share. Have a great week!

  5. I adore trees, and whenever we have moved I have always enjoyed choosing which ones to plant. We have several birch trees in our garden and a rubinia. Recently I visited an old neighbour who lives next door to our old house, and I was thrilled to see that the trees I planted ten years ago are now as tall as the house roofs and still growing strong.

  6. Actually, grass is better. Grass prevents erosion better, holds up to flooding, sequester carbon etc. Trees planted where they shouldn’t be are a serious problem. They steal resource from other plants, creating bare spots in the soil, exposed dirt. They can create drought situations downstream.

    The are excellent for shade, they definitely have their place, but the right pant in any given place is not always a tree.

    • Not just any grass though. Lawn is NOT better, in fact, the suburban lawn is an environmental menace. Diverse savannah species within a grassland ecosystem, however, sequesters carbon better than trees by far (and I have written about this extensively). But fall is for planting trees, and people are not going to plant grasslands in their yards or suburban/urban communities; rather they are going to plant trees and shrubs (hopefully fruit trees too). As a certified arborist, I wrote this post to make sure that my readers are planting their trees at the right time and in the right manner, and that they know about good, knowledgable organizations that are helping reforest wherever we cut down.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I have been considering planting now but honestly had no idea what was best or how really to do so. Now I am better equipped and understand why it is ideal to plant those small trees now.:)

  8. Thank you. :D

  9. Agree! Trees are the best kind of carbon sink, and a much more sensible solution than sequestering CO2 in caverns under the ocean (like, it will never leak out and acidify the oceans, right?). The trouble is that you need a LOT of trees. Our yard is kinda full, so I’ve taken to planting trees at school. Or wherever I’m allowed. And a few places where I’ve played the squirrel and scattered around some native seeds in places that aren’t overly tended.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


6 − = 3

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>